Maldonado, 30, is still haunted by the two-year contract he signed with the Giants after the 1987 season, when he hit 20 home runs and drove in 85 runs. The next two years he averaged 10 homers and 54 RBIs. "That's just an excuse," says Maldonado, who will probably wind up with a one-year, $875,000 contract from Milwaukee after getting off to a strong start in spring games. "If the Indians can't pay, they're not going to bring a winner there. This isn't the movie Major League. You have to pay to win."
Another righthanded-batting outfielder who didn't draw much interest is Phil Bradley. A lifetime .286 hitter, Bradley batted .256 for the Orioles and White Sox in 1990. After getting no off-season offers, he signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.
Mickey Tettleton, 30, a switch-hitting catcher who had 41 homers over the last two years for the Orioles, hoped to get a contract similar to the three-year, $6.75 million deal that free-agent catcher Darren Daulton signed with the Phillies in November. "I thought the Daulton deal would help, but it hurt," says Tettleton. "It was as if people said, 'Daulton's overpaid; we can't pay you that much.' " Tettleton drew little interest as a free-agent and accepted an offer of arbitration from the Orioles. In January, Baltimore traded him to the Tigers, who signed him to a one-year, $1.6 million contract.
That $1.6 million looks pretty good to those free agents looking for work. Among them are Jeffrey Leonard, 35, who knocked in 75 runs as an outfielder-DH for the Mariners last year; Angels DH Brian Downing, 40, who batted .345 against lefties in 1990; and Reds infielder Ron Oester, 34, who hit .299 last year.
First Things First
It's hard to figure how some teams choose a leadoff man. The Blue Jays, for instance, have been trying centerfielder Devon White in the No. 1 spot despite his career on-base average of .295. Why not use second baseman Roberto Alomar, who hit .364 as a leadoff man for the Padres last year? The answer is that White told Toronto manager Cito Gaston that he is more comfortable batting leadoff. So Alomar is hitting second.
The Royals are using centerfielder Brian McRae at the top of the order, even though he picked up only nine walks in 168 at bats in 1990. The Giants are trying second baseman Robby Thompson, who has averaged 109 strikeouts over the last five years. And the Pirates have even experimented with centerfielder Andy Van Slyke, who has never batted first in his eight professional seasons.
Battle of the Bulge
How did Tiger first baseman Cecil Fielder spend the off-season? Certainly not at a Weight Watchers clinic. Fielder looks even heavier this spring than he did last season, when he tipped the scales at more than 240 pounds. And recent actions by Detroit manager Sparky Anderson indicate that he's not too happy about the situation.
The first hint came last Saturday when the Tigers moved their top prospect, first baseman Rico Brogna, from minor league camp to major league camp—an odd move considering that players usually go the other way at this time of year. As soon as Brogna arrived, Anderson started him at first base.